We had an overwhelming response for the SAFe® Thursday – Ask an SPCT on 3 February and could not answer all of your questions. So we are back with another SAFe Thursday: Expert Talk – Ask an SPCT with Ashwinee Kalkura, SPCT, Professional Coach, on 3 March.
March 3, 2022, 7:00 pm – March 3, 2022, 8:00 pm IST
To navigate digital disruption, many organizations have changed how Agile teams and ARTs collaborate, which means guidance on PI Planning, organizational agility, and Agile Teams needed to adapt as well. These rapid changes have resulted in many questions and doubts.
Are you struggling to find answers for your SAFe implementation? If so, register for this immersive webinar where Ashwinee will answer your questions live.
SPCT, Professional Coach (Cyberbahn)
Ashwinee is an experienced Agile Coach, Consultant and a passionate Trainer with a demonstrated history of working in the Retail, Mobile, Industrial Automation, Banking and Networking industries. Strong engineering professional skilled in Agile Methodologies (SAFe, Scrum, XP, Kanban), Technical Practices, Test Automation and Stakeholder Management. He has trained over 2000 people on Certification based training.
SAFe Enterprise is a system of knowledge, tools, and practices essential to successfully scale agile across the enterprise. SAFe Enterprise bundles the critical components of learning, adopting, and practicing SAFe into a single platform, accessible to leaders and teams anytime, anywhere. This webinar will explore these components and the four main areas they represent within your organization: Go SAFe, Know SAFe, Do SAFe, Be SAFe!
Chief Product Officer (Scaled Agile)
Inbar has more than 20 years experience in the high-tech market, working in small and large enterprises, as well as a range of roles from development and architecture to executive positions. For over a decade, Inbar has been helping development organizations—in both software and integrated systems—improve results by adopting Lean-Agile best practices. Previous clients include Cisco, Woolworths, Amdocs, Intel, and NCR. Working as a principal contributor to SAFe, and Scaled Agile instructor and consultant, Inbar’s current focus is on working with leaders at the Program, Value Stream, and Portfolio levels to help them bring the most out of their organizations, build new processes and culture. A martial arts aficionado, Inbar holds black belts in several arts. He also thinks and lives the idea of “scale,” raising five kids—including two sets of twins—with his beautiful wife, Ranit.
Customer Story – NTT DATA: Japanese Payment Services Leader Transforms Organizational Culture and Improves Business Agility with SAFe
NTNTT DATA brings the first Japanese customer story to the SAFe Summit audience. Headquartered in Tokyo and operating in more than 50 countries as a top 10 global IT services provider, NTT Data turned to SAFe to improve its ability to respond to market demands and stay ahead of a growing number of competitors. In his presentation, Product Manager Takenori Osada describes the difficulty of introducing Agile in Japan, how their culture transformed, and how they applied SAFe in their Payments Services Division and were able to see significant improvements in employee Net Promoter Scores, time-to-market, productivity, and quality.
SAFe is essential for us to be able to compete in the payment market. This resulted in an investment cost advantage.” —Director (Business owner)
Presented at the Global SAFe Summit, October, 2020.
Lockheed Flying the F-16 into the Future with SAFe: Evolving the Falcon Factory
Presented at 2019 Global SAFe Summit, San Diego Oct. 2, 2019 The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the world’s most successful, combat-proven multirole fighter with approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service today in 25 countries. In 2014, new production orders were drying out, and the F-16 production line was in danger of shutting down. Our solution to that problem was the adoption of SAFe to streamline the F-16 Product Development and Engineering in 2015. We overcame a lot of challenges along the way, and made rapid progress initially, but have plateaued. That should come as no surprise though. Our limited implementation showed us limited results. But we are turning this ship around! This year we have really taken stock of our Agile Transformation and implemented several ground-breaking initiatives that are changing our landscape. Lockheed has now started a new F-16 production facility in Greenville, South Carolina that is producing F-16s expected to operate to 2070 and beyond!
“SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
—Dr. Ronen Barnahor, Head of Agile Business Transformation, EdgeVerve Systems
With releases every 6-18 months, the company set a goal of further improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
Release time improved by 50 – 66%
Planning every 10 weeks sharpens predictability
Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
Reduction in escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
Managers first – By beginning training with managers, EdgeVerve gained essential buy-in that helped influence the C-level and team level
Merging Testing and Engineering – Bringing these groups together reduced what were distinct silos
Common cadence – EdgeVerve kept everyone on a common cadence, even before bringing all teams into the Framework
Hybrid model of implementation – ARTs and managers of non-ARTs aligned on the same cadence and planning activities
Banks across 94 countries, serving 848 million consumers, rely on Finacle, an industry-leading universal banking suite from EdgeVerve Systems Ltd. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the global IT company, Infosys, EdgeVerve develops software products that enable businesses across multiple industries to innovate, accelerate growth, and have deeper connections with stakeholders. Gartner and Forrester consistently name EdgeVerve at the top of their rankings for banking platforms.
In 2015, the company set an aggressive goal of improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
SAFe: a framework for faster results
For guidance, the management brought on Dr. Ronen Barnahor, now Head of Agile Business Transformation. Barnahor recommended the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) to help instigate real change, quickly.
“Our mission is to adopt a Lean and Agile mindset and practices, and become a learning organization focused on continuous improvement to provide better value to our customers,” Barnahor says. “SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
Prior to adopting SAFe, the teams at EdgeVerve were working in cadence, however, their approach wasn’t effective in meeting new organizational goals.
Building a coalition from the ground up
To bolster internal buy-in, EdgeVerve appointed Jasdeep Singh Kaler, an AVP and 20-year veteran of the company, to help Barnahor lead the effort. Through a contest, the transformation earned the name “Mach 1”—a nod to the importance of speed.
In alignment with SAFe, EdgeVerve began with training, choosing first to focus specifically on managers. VPs and directors, and about 30 leads across all functional areas attended two days of Leading SAFe®. The training created buzz about the transformation and gave the C-level confidence that moving to SAFe was accepted by internal leaders. By the end of the class, participants signaled they were ready to move forward with SAFe, with confidence scores of 4 and 5.
With positive feedback from leaders, C-level executives attended a one-day management workshop that included principles from Leading SAFe. There, they set implementation goals and approved the new direction. Knowing they would begin with the Finacle banking solution, they identified dependencies, defined all Value Streams and established who would join in the first two Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
“This was a crucial meeting with leads from product strategy, delivery, architecture, and testing, to help them embrace the concepts of the Value Stream and the ART, optimize the whole process, gain a systems view, decentralize decisions, and more,” Barnahor says.
In April 2016, EdgeVerve kicked off the first Program Increment (PI) using SAFe with a 2-day planning meeting in Bangalore, India. The event brought together 60 individuals from multiple locations across India. The CTO attended, sending a message about the importance of the change for EdgeVerve.
In subsequent ART launches and PI planning events, the heads of engineering, product strategy, product management and other senior leaders participated with great commitment—bolstering the adoption at a grassroots level.
The event itself excited and motivated team members: “We had fun as a team in PI planning and that enabled us to do better work,” says one team member.
Hybrid implementation model—ARTs + Non-ARTs
As the company launched two ARTs, it did so with just two coaches. For that reason, EdgeVerve continued running non-SAFe teams on the same cadence—in what it calls a “hybrid model.”
“We didn’t have the coaching capacity to structure everyone into SAFe, but they all aligned on the same cadence with a centralized backlog,” Barnahor explains.
While EdgeVerve began implementing SAFe, managers of other products outside of ARTs were trained concurrently in Program-level activities. Under the hybrid approach, all product teams (ARTs and non-ARTs) aligned in several ways:
The same cadence (sprints and PI)
Working in IBM Rational Team Concert
Pre-planning + PI Planning (For non-ARTs, only managers joined in PI planning)
Execution (For non-ARTs, there was no coaching. Leads managed the work as previously but with a focus on demos in cadence with ARTs.)
Product and solution-level demos
Retrospectives (In non-ARTs, only managers joined.)
“The hybrid model of implementation of a full ART plus managers first in non-ART teams contributed to faster alignment and predictability across products within the integrated banking solution,” Barnahor says.
Very quickly, teams began delivering on cadence, demonstrating early value to management. SAFe also sharpened visibility, enabling them to predict more accurately. As a result, the Product Management Organization began to understand the power of “velocity” as a prediction metric and began using the Agile dashboard that EdgeVerve developed.
Changing the Culture
As EdgeVerve launched trains, the company concurrently focused heavily on changing the culture, with the belief that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” According to Kaler, since EdgeVerve focused on ‘managers first,’ these individuals became key influencers in the cultural change. The main focus was around breaking the silos, establishing common ownership on quality, managing and improving through data, and an emphasis on outcome and business value instead of on utilization.
The new, common terminology of SAFe (ARTs, ceremonies, and cadence) ensured everyone spoke the same language. With a common language, they could more easily understand expectations and minimize misunderstandings.
“From a change management perspective, everyone understood that EdgeVerve had embarked on something important at the organizational level that is based on a proven industry framework,” Barnahor says. “We had fewer arguments on definitions. I told them, ‘Let’s adapt SAFe definitions and practices, observe the impact on the ground during execution, and then change. Why reinvent the wheel?’”
The company also altered its success measures to help influence behavior, asking questions such as…
Are we delivering desired value to customers?
Are we on time? If not, when can we deliver the committed scope?
Are we on scope? If not, what we will not deliver on due date?
Are we on top of quality?
Are we on flow? Any bottlenecks? Starvation? Backlog readiness for the next PI? What is the average cycle time?
Can we predict well?
How do employees feel about the change?
As attitudes changed, EdgeVerve collected feedback from the field and shared positive comments from team members and managers widely on posters and in videos—with the goal of spreading enthusiasm.
Additionally, the company adjusted the organizational structure to support the change. From developer to head of engineering, EdgeVerve reduced the number of organizational layers from seven layers to just four layers.
Perhaps the biggest difference came in moving the distinct testing organization, which was under delivery, into engineering—a decision that quickly improved relations between developers and testers. In line with SAFe, testing also now happens concurrently with development with greater focus on acceptance automation.
Reducing cycle time, increasing quality
Today, the company runs eight ARTs with approximately 800 people across three value streams and one portfolio. They launch a new ART every six weeks. At the same time, they run five teams of teams that are not part of the SAFe transformation.
Less than a year after deploying SAFe, EdgeVerve reported significant gains:
Reduced time-to-market – For large enterprise products, release time dropped from 12 – 18 months to six months, and for small products, from six months to three months
Improved predictability – The company plans consistently every 10 weeks, which increases flexibility for changing scope with minimal cost
Expedited feature speed – Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
Elevated efficiency – The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
Fewer defects – The company significantly improved early detection of defects, leading to fewer escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
As the PIs progressed, team members could clearly see the advantages of the new approach. Most notably, communication and collaboration improved, with evidence that silos were dissolving.
“The way teams were working, even a minor downtime was clearly a cascading effect in the team’s progress,” says one team member. “Teams identified it, they came up with solutions, and they worked together.
“If code was not working, we got the right contacts, spoke to the code team and got the issue resolved,” says another team member. “This is a big change from the software developer’s perspective on how they approach their work.”
“The developer-tester relationship was better,” says another. “You can directly check with them for the issues you’re facing.” Additionally, anonymous participant surveys reflected progress. The company asked approximately 300 people about the impact of SAFe. Most notably, there was an 89% improvement in trust and communication across different functions while 73% believe that SAFe helped increase productivity/throughput.
Even as EdgeVerve sees positive results and culture shifts, transformation leaders find it is an ongoing process. With demonstrated results, they gained backing to hire more coaches. Looking ahead, the main challenge, Barnahor says, is middle management’s mind-set—transforming managers to act as Agile leaders and mentors to the teams by focusing on an Agile leadership program.
“It’s a transformation of hearts and minds,” Kaler says. “We made sure that managers believed in what we’re doing and slowly the culture is changing.”
“The fact that we delivered for the biggest industry event of the year was hugely motivating and moved us from a negative to a positive spiral. The business was a bit surprised and shocked that we did what we said we would do on something that was quite big and complicated. There’s no way we could have done it without SAFe.”
Six months before the biggest annual industry event, IT leadership recognized that it would likely not deliver a new release as planned.
Time to market – A 75% reduction in the time to get features to market
Customer value – With more frequent releases, customers see value much faster
Quality – A 25% reduction in defects in production
Predictability – 98% accuracy on the delivery predictability
Morale – A 60% jump in employee engagement survey results
Deploy SAFe by the book – “Adopting an industry best-practices system like SAFe off the shelf has forced us to transition and change in the way we needed to,” Littlefair says.
Be lean with SAFe – To implement quickly ahead of an industry event, LIC used only what was essential.
Focus on the business outcome – Look beyond the implementation at the objectives for implementing SAFe/Agile. “This will then allow the business to be ruthless in getting early wins, and shift from a cost-driven culture to one of value,” Clark says.
In New Zealand, Fieldays is billed as “the biggest agricultural trade show in the Southern Hemisphere.” Every June, more than 115,000 farming industry visitors come to purchase equipment and learn about the latest in farming advances.
For Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to connect with current and prospective customers—farmers. One of the oldest farming co-operatives in the country, LIC provides a range of services and solutions to help farmers be more prosperous and productive: genetics and information to create superior livestock; information to improve farmer decision-making; and hardware and systems to improve productivity. To achieve those goals, more than 700 employees are based in offices around New Zealand, increasing to around 2,000 for the peak dairy mating season
As Big Data and other technologies begin to heavily influence farming practices, LIC is riding a wave of growth. As LIC prepared for Fieldays 2016, the co-op planned a new release of MINDA Live, the company’s proprietary herd management system. Yet the organization’s IT leadership lacked confidence about delivering as planned—and with good reason. Historically, IT had rarely delivered on time or budget.
“Every time we failed to deliver we did a post-mortem, but didn’t learn from our mistakes, and it would happen again a few months later,” says Paul Littlefair, CIO.
Deploying Essential SAFe®
LIC was an early adopter of Lean-Agile team practices. However, they still performed most IT work with a waterfall governance process.
“We still had incredibly large, multi-year projects, and detailed analysis to write business cases,” Littlefair says. “In typical waterfall fashion, we didn’t test until the end or consider quality from the beginning. It took a lot of rework to get it right, leading to overruns.”
With the Fieldays deadline looming, Littlefair decided to call in Gillian Clark for an assessment of their readiness. To Clark, it was unclear whether teams would deliver as needed for the big event.
To expedite progress, Clark recommended that LIC implement the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Given the short timeframe and the team’s unfamiliarity with the Framework, they chose to deploy Essential SAFe, a subset of SAFe that includes 10 major elements necessary for a successful implementation.
“The approach was, get everyone into a room, align teams into a single Agile Release Train (ART) with a focus on integration, and focus on delivery of the program with a single program backlog, with one person coordinating the project managers and pooled budgets. Up to that point they had three project managers fighting for budget and resources, so we merged them,” Clark says.
Given the approaching deadline—just six months out—Littlefair and Clark encountered some resistance to trying something new. They asked everyone to participate in the PI planning, including Operations, which had not participated in planning previously. The CEO likewise attended, which set the tone for the importance of the launch.
“Putting everyone in a room together to talk about stuff—instead of building it—was seen as something we should not do,” Littlefair says. “But we made it mandatory for everyone to attend.”
In spite of initial misgivings, some of those who had been unsure began to recognize the value of face-to-face collaboration during the first day of Program Increment (PI) planning. Specifically, they saw how their roles and their work tied to others.
“It slowly dawned on them that they were on the same critical path as everyone else in the room,” Clark says. “They also began to realize the project outcomes were at risk and that SAFe practices were providing more understanding of what needed to happen to be successful.”
For the first time, teams were working on the same cadence, an essential step in synchronizing everyone across the organization. Soon, they fell into a flow and started to self manage. Communication and transparency improved; instead of making assumptions, individuals started identifying dependencies with others, and making sure those dependencies were discussed and accepted.
Delivering for Fieldays and Beyond
When Cerno first introduced DevOps practices, the company lacked a SAFe DevOps Practitioner. Still, they made progress on a delivery pipeline and staging environment, supported a grayscale release of a product, and shortened the time to release future versions.
Beyond that release, LIC notes improvements across multiple areas:
Time-to-market – A 75% reduction in the time to get features to market (from 12 to 24 months down to three to six months). Features are now released twice a week for COBOL and legacy solutions.
Customer value – With more frequent releases, customers now see value much faster. “Customers have absolutely noticed,” Littlefair says. “Whenever something goes out, we post it on social media and we’re seeing a lot more engagement and real-time feedback there.”
Quality – A 25% reduction in defects in production
Predictability – 98% accuracy on delivery predictability
Morale – A 60% improvement in employee engagement survey results
LIC’s SAFe journey has led to numerous changes across the organization. For one, meetings look quite different than they did before SAFe was adopted. Initially, some leaders preferred not to include all teams in planning meetings. Now, everyone joins, and Littlefair notes, teams hold each other more accountable and ask more insightful questions.
Before, analysts would write involved business cases and ‘push’ them on teams. These days, product owners make sure work is properly sized and teams ‘pull’ the work.
On the Path of Value-Stream Funding
Currently, LIC runs three ARTs and has extended SAFe across the entire technical landscape. Having moved beyond Essential SAFe, the co-op is now on a course to fund projects at the value stream level. Business leaders now clearly see the value of their investments, and discussions center on priorities in terms of features and benefits.
“SAFe has succeeded in a culture and mindset change,” Littlefair says. “We have a set of processes, rules, and practices that work extremely well, and that have led a cultural shift.”
“SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
–David McMunn, Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE
Within three years, the organization would need to stand-up an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines.
Financial Services, Government
Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year.
They integrate reliably every two weeks.
Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks.
The organization reduced the defect rate substantially.
Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 before.
Velocity increased from 10 story points to more than 30.
Sync cadence – Establishing a common cadence was critical to success. Engineering practices must evolve in order to comply with bimodal governance.
Work on database modeling upfront – For any data-heavy effort, perform advance work on database modeling to avoid the impact of changes identified later in the sprint.
Develop a playbook – Such guidance reduces rework for multiple teams working in parallel.
Fannie Mae is the leading provider of mortgage financing in the United States. Operating under a congressional charter, Fannie Mae—and its sibling organization Freddie Mac—play an important role in the nation’s housing finance system; they provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the mortgage market.
Coming out of the housing crisis in 2013, Fannie Mae recognized that the lending environment it was moving into required it to be even more responsive to meet rapidly changing customer needs. Further, Fannie Mae recognized that agility was critical to achieving this objective—not just in technology, but across the organization.
In January 2015, Fannie Mae was preparing to align with guidance provided by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Congress, under a new joint venture named Common Securitization Solutions (CSS). As part of this effort, Fannie Mae undertook an initiative to transform some of their key internal business processes to align with CSS to build a universal securitization platform for the issuance and management of mortgage-backed securities.
Within three years, Fannie Mae planned to develop an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines. More than 20 development teams, encompassing over 300 individuals, were needed to integrate development and testing efforts across 30 assets. As Fannie Mae prepared to implement this change, the organization encountered several challenges as the new model was being defined based on continuously evolving requirements.
“When you’re doing a large-scale integration with a lot of data, the number-one factor for success is early integration and early testing,” says Atif Salam, Director of Enterprise Data at Fannie Mae. “The federal mandate required us to mitigate risk from the get-go, and we realized early on it would not be possible following a waterfall approach. There was no better way for us to mitigate that risk than to adopt Agile.”
Overcoming Initial Roadblocks
Enterprise Data’s efforts to adopt Agile uncovered several challenges, both internal and external:
Challenge #1: No Agile capability evident for the initial two teams at the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative.
The first Enterprise Data teams were brand new to Agile, the Scrum methodology and, having been formed specifically for this initiative, working with each other.
Prior to adopting SAFe, Enterprise Data developed a standard on-boarding approach and entrance criteria for standing up new teams. Additionally, external Agile subject matter expertise was brought in to train and work with the teams, and an Agile Mature Model (AMM) was created to baseline behaviors and practices, as well as identify areas for optimization.
Thereafter, once the decision had been made to adopt SAFe, the program began to work through the SAFe Readiness Checklist. The AMM was used to set target benchmarks that all program teams were required to meet in order to ensure there was sufficient capability in place from which to scale.
Challenge #2: At the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative, a Scrum team could only complete a single user story due to inflexible architecture, end-to-end testing challenges, and numerous build constraints. Further, it was typical for the work to be gated by subject matter expertise between developers who viewed data attributes as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, that could only be implemented sequentially.
In response, technical leads focused on eliminating constraints, reducing complexity, and optimizing workflow. Specifically, Technical Leads worked with the teams to leverage cross-functional team/paired programming constructs to augment technical expertise. As a result, the teams began to view data attributes not as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, but rather as having two distinct pieces of business value, specifically sourcing and vending.
Additionally, they made the effort to move system integration testing (SIT), as well as user acceptance testing (UAT), left into the Scrum team. As a result, and over time, each team began to complete multiple user stories within a given sprint. Additionally, the organization adopted an emergent design mindset, formed cross-functional Agile feature teams, and aligned to a common cadence that synchronized their activities (e.g. sprint planning, Scrum-of-Scrums, sprint reviews).
Challenge #3: At the outset of Enterprise Data’s journey, complexity was further complicated by the fact that teams were required to develop and integrate their code in the same mainline, thereby replacing branching as an accepted technical practice. Additionally, Fannie Mae required new release traceability management that would satisfy corporate and federal governance requirements.
To address these challenges, technical leads and shared services focused on building a continuous integration capability, across all teams, using the same codebase. The organization had always had application lifecycle management (ALM), however, it needed to rethink continuous integration to realize true efficiencies. Over the course of 10 months, the organization focused on leveraging automation to reduce the time to implement builds from once every six months to multiple times a day.
Additionally, Enterprise Data adopted behavior-driven development engineering practices for traceability, automated testing, and prototyping.
Challenge #4: Upstream technical dependencies specific to architecture, database design/modeling, and test data provisioning prevented the teams from completing a single user story within the two-week sprint cadence.
In addition to the technical challenges the teams were facing, there were also multiple upstream dependencies on architecture, data modeling, and test data management that they had to resolve before a User Story could be implemented by a team working in a two-week cadence.
Initially, working ahead of the teams, a group of business analysts were assembled and assigned to groom the program backlog sufficiently so that User Stories met, or exceeded, 80% of the sprint team’s Definition of Ready. Despite this focus, however, there was barely enough ready work in the program backlog for the teams to bring into their respective sprint planning. This was due to the lead times required to resolve upstream dependencies as well as the need to respond to continually changing requirements.
In preparation for scaling, Enterprise Data worked with their business stakeholders to create a roadmap of features spanning one business quarter. Simultaneously, they focused on optimizing backlog health, sufficient in depth to support the Agile teams, for at least two consecutive sprints. Additionally, adopting a system perspective, the entire value stream was analyzed to better anticipate, and mitigate for, internal/external technical dependencies.
Challenge #5: The organization’s culture was accustomed to working within a traditional implementation methodology.
At the outset, Fannie Mae had a traditional command and control culture, supported by a broader ecosystem of corporate functions that had to change to support Agile. Those leading the change made a significant effort to work with leadership and management to pivot from the traditional role of directing delivery to becoming Lean-Agile leaders and critical change agents, both supporting the teams as well as modeling the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.
As already noted, leadership and management changed their focus to clearing impediments impacting the teams. Additionally, they influenced corporate functions to align in support of Agile, get the business integrated and involved, as well as to put the pieces in place to create an environment focused on continuous learning. “Historically we would have seen challenges as failures in requirements or development rather than opportunities to fail fast and learn, and improve,” Salam explains.
While still new to their roles, the Lean-Agile leaders infused a sense of purpose in the teams and gave them autonomy to implement the work while decentralizing decision-making and minimizing constraints.
SAFe: Agility. Visibility. Transparency.
Although Fannie Mae had pockets of Agile capability up to this point, leadership understood that a scaled Agile methodology was required to achieve their objectives. Fortunately, individuals within the company had prior success with large-scale Agile deployments using the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).
Fannie Mae teamed up with an external Scaled Agile Gold partner to develop and mature its Scrum capability and then deploy SAFe. As the first to make the transition, the Enterprise Data division became the torch bearer.
“We had multiple waterfall efforts, third-party integration, and a hard regulatory mandate that made coordination and execution exceptionally difficult,” explains David McMunn, the Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile Center of Excellence (COE). “SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with the numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
Fannie Mae applied a dogmatic approach to ensure the organization was developing a consistent set of practices across multiple teams at the outset. External coaches delivered Agile, Scrum Master, Product Owner, Leading SAFe (SA), and SAFe for Teams (SP) training. The SAFe training was then mandatory for every new team joining the effort.
Fannie Mae launched its first Agile Release Train (ART) encompassing six programs, across 12 teams, with more than 130 people, in June of 2015. Admittedly, that first Program Increment (PI) offered some learning experiences.
“In spite of all the preparation that went into the backlog, setting expectations, confirming attendance from stakeholders, and the training prior to planning, the first PI was somewhat of a chaotic experience,” says Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer at Fannie Mae.
Context setting provided by the business, product, and architecture leads took time away from team break-out sessions and, as a result, the teams struggled to resolve all of the open requirements and scope questions to complete their plans.
“But by the end of the second day,” Richardson continues, “we started to see progress.” The teams had mapped out their dependencies on the program board, resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated (ROAM) all of the known risks in the PI and achieved a Fist of Five confidence score of 3.
“The session offered the very first opportunity for all stakeholders to work together on this multi-million dollar program.” Richardson adds. “A new way of managing large-scale integration efforts at Fannie Mae was emerging that would spread across the technology enterprise.”
Over the next few PIs, the organization knew more clearly how to prepare for the PI planning meeting and confidence scores began averaging 4 and higher.
Modeling Confidence in the New Methodology
During cross-team planning in an early PI, it became clear that several teams were not on track to deliver important capabilities within the targeted timeline. “Some of my best new Agile team leaders offered to throw more people at the problem ‘just this once,’ and crash the schedule like they did in the old days,” Richardson says. “It’s in those moments that you need to model confidence in the Agile method, to be the calm in the eye of the storm.” Instead, the Agile team leaders were encouraged to go back to the Product Owners regarding the change in priorities and empower them to devise a new minimum viable product. “Within a couple of hours, everything was back on track with planning, and ultimately all the teams delivered, and the external customer delivery was on-time,” Richardson says. “Now they carry this story with them, and are empowered to solve problems and make decisions in truly productive ways. It’s part of the culture.”
Gains across the Board
Today, Fannie Mae has come a long way. The Enterprise Data division delivered an integrated solution on time and with much higher quality than was expected for an effort of this size. From a broader perspective, the transformation to SAFe revolutionized how the organization plans for the delivery of large-scale programs.
Fannie Mae has seen improvements on multiple fronts:
Reduced risk – Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks through the relentless focus on innovation and automation to ship “production ready” code with higher and higher frequency. They significantly mitigated the risk inherent in complex integration between legacy and new architectures/applications, as well as between internal and external systems.
Faster feedback cycles – Enterprise Data delivers system demos and integrated code every two weeks. Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year, for the largest application across the enterprise, with millions of lines of code.
Improved predictability – Teams, within the program and across the enterprise, integrate reliably every two weeks.
Boosted quality – The organization reduced the defect rate substantially.
Increased business value – Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 attributes when Agile was first adopted within Enterprise Data.
Better team progress – Teams undergo regular AHR (Agility Health Reviews) cycles and have matured to higher Agile Maturity Model levels.
Greater efficiency – Fannie Mae realizes significant efficiency through a reduction in technical debt.
Currently, Fannie Mae runs three ARTs. The Enterprise Data ART recently completed its 13th PI. Additionally, there are more than 200 Lean-Agile teams across Enterprise IT, encompassing over 3,000 people. Functional and business portfolios are adopting lightweight Lean-Agile values and practices as part of their day-to-day activities.
“This way of working has spread across the organization,” Salam says. “It’s changing the way we deliver for the customer, the way we hire and do our budgeting, and is continuously extending further and further into the business.”
“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey. Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”
–Natalie Field, Head of MyPost Consumer
Effectively deliver solutions that sustain and further enable Australia Post as a trusted services provider, and delight customers with personalized digital products and services.
100-fold increase in yearly production deployments with 98% cost reduction, enabling iterative product development
400% Agile Release Train productivity increase over 18 months
Strong overall delivery predictability of 80%+
First-Time Delivery rate improved by 7 percentage points
Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points
Increased employee satisfaction and engagement
Establish a learning and improvement mindset – Place a primary focus on learning and continuous improvement across all facets of delivery to achieve consistent growth in maturity and effectiveness.
Measure outcomes – Enabling a metrics and measurement capability links teams to business strategy and is key to ensuring business outcomes are effectively achieved.
Align to DevOps principles – Building a strong technology delivery platform aligned to DevOps principles enables iterative and innovative product
Focus on the entire system of work – Build organizational advocacy and sustainability by facilitating change and enablement for shared teams that support and govern Agile Release Trains.
Australia Post is Australia’s iconic postal services provider. For 208 years, the organization has been integral to how people and communities connect across Australia. Through a collective workforce of over 50,000 people, Australia Post serves communities, citizens, and businesses, from large corporations to government departments.
Like many organizations, Australia Post’s business has been disrupted and must transform to adapt to the digital era. Traditional business pillars such as letters are in persistent decline, while the company faces fierce competition, but also immense opportunity with the growth of ecommerce. For Australia Post, that opportunity lies in creating sustainable competitive advantage through trusted relationships between consumers, businesses, and government.
Given these forces, Australia Post needed a new way of working to both sustain and further enable the organization as a trusted services provider, and to delight its customers with personalized digital products and services.
SAFe: Driving Change with Lean Structure and Common Language
Over the past four years, Australia Post has invested in its technology, people, and culture to change the way it works to focus on customer experiences and continuous innovation. To help achieve this agility in business, Australia Post selected and adopted the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) not only as an operating model but as a tool for change. With SAFe, the organization aims to describe, communicate, and build an understanding of how to leverage Lean and Agile principles across the organization.
“The structure and discipline outlined in SAFe has been a powerful way to communicate a different way of working,” says Daniel Fajerman, Head of Digital Engineering. “Using an industry proven framework offered a strong basis to start the conversation about working differently, providing a common language and consistent base to work off.”
Achieving Sustainable Change
The goal at Australia Post is sustainable, lasting change that fundamentally shifts how the organization approaches and delivers against its strategies. To do so, Australia Post must equip its people with knowledge and the ability to advocate for and be a part of this new way of working.
A broad and comprehensive training and enablement strategy was rolled out across the organization to build experience and maturity. With help from Mark Richards of CoActivation, a Scaled Agile partner, Australia Post trained more than 900 people in Leading SAFe® and SAFe for Teams® courses. This included key roles across executive leadership, within business functions such as finance, risk, architecture, security, marketing and sales, and of course technology leadership and teams.
From the beginning, Australia Post applied a persistent focus on cadence and synchronization – keys to building alignment and embedding disciplined delivery practices across diverse teams. With all of Australia Post on the same sprint (and then Program Increment) cadence, scaling teams and ultimately forming these into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) became a natural evolution.
Achieving sustainable change focused on four key interrelated areas of emphasis across the organization:
Cross-functional, long-running teams – Moving from transient project teams to cross-functional, long-running teams aligned to customer experiences was a foundational, critical change to the way people work.
Culture – Australia Post invested significantly in evolving the culture of the organization to one where curiosity, innovation, and a learning mindset predominate.
Technology enablement – Beyond cultural and process changes, improving delivery flow and time-to-value requires an effective build pipeline and deployment infrastructure aligned to DevOps principles.
System of work – Implementing a new way of working spans well beyond delivery teams to every part of the organization that supports the delivery of business initiatives. The change team worked closely with shared services groups to tailor approaches to enable and meet their needs under the Framework, including new innovative funding and governance models.
This multi-pronged approach formed sustainable building blocks for change and enablement. With the goal of implementing Agile Release Trains (ARTs), the early focus was on long-running teams and culture to allow maturity to build and grow. The greatest traction came with the advocacy and leadership of business sponsors and leads, who understood the increased business opportunity and had confidence in the delivery model.
MyPost Consumer – Creating a Platform for Personalized Services
Today, five ARTs now support Australia Post’s value streams and associated enterprise strategies. One of those trains, the MyPost Consumer ART, sits within Australia Post’s Consumer market segment value stream. Established in 2015 to play a significant role in the shift toward customer centricity, MyPost Consumer is creating an omni-channel platform to offer personalized services to customers. The train’s primary focus: the parcel delivery experience, which sits at the heart of Australia Post’s business.
The train is made up of 110 cross-functional roles, with each team responsible for specific components of the parcel delivery experience. As a multi-channel, multi-technology program, only 30% of features are purely digital. The most impactful features require changes to multiple channels and enterprise technology systems.
“Getting the job done right is about focusing as much on how we work together, as what we are working on,” says Natalie Field, Head of MyPost Consumer. “We know there are many unknowns in achieving our program strategy and we don’t, and won’t, always get it right. However we also know that by respecting each other, and staying committed to rapid learning cycles, we will always come up with great solutions. “
The train has achieved strong outcomes over the past couple of years. Australia Post attributes the success of the train to several pillars:
Create a customer-centric culture Building a customer-centric culture meant creating an environment that empowers the entire team to make fact-based, data-driven decisions and equipping everyone to be advocates for the customer experience.
Focus on metrics to drive business outcomes A strong focus on measurement has resulted in significant positive impact across the organization’s primary success measures. To help achieve this outcome, teams are equipped with technology tools and the ability to collect and report on data. This empowers teams to learn fast about in-market feature performance and make changes when necessary. The result is a data-driven approach to how the train identifies, prioritises, implements, and learns from each Program Increment.
Improve continuously for greater predictability and performance Success of the train hinges on an ability to improve continuously and focus relentlessly on evolving the experience to meet customer needs. The train adapts and responds to market demands, continually improving technology capabilities to advance the business across its digital channel, retail stores, delivery network, and call centre.
Raising Satisfaction and Throughput, with Lower Cost
A strong focus on measurement and learning to maximize business outcomes resulted in significant positive impact:
Improved first-time delivery – The First-Time Delivery rate jumped by 7 percentage points over 12 months.
Reduced cost – Australia Post reduced its infrastructure costs by 98%.
Predictability – The train consistently delivered on 80% or more of its objectives.
Customer satisfaction – The Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points over the course of one year.
Employee engagement – Employee satisfaction and engagement increased.
Industry accolades – The train was voted the Best Customer Centric Project in Australia / New Zealand by the CX Management Conference.
Australia Post continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of its business. Its focus on continuous improvement means the organization ever challenges itself to create the next wave of trusted services for its customers.
“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey,” Field says. “Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”
Presented at 2017 SAFe Summit by Alex Keyter, Lean-Agile Coach at Standard Bank
Standard Bank embarked on a transformation journey in 2014 with IT initiating approximately 600 projects annually to help keep the bank at the leading edge. Historically, teams completed only a small percentage of projects within the defined timeframe, budget, and scope.
A visit to Silicon Valley’s top technology companies by our IT executives triggered the start of a number of Lean Agile proof-of-concepts, showcasing the potential of Agility in the enterprise. However, their efforts stalled when they attempted to expand beyond a few development teams working in isolation.
With a clear IT strategy in place, the bank turned to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and gained support from executives to forge ahead with deploying the Scaled Agile Framework across the organization. Prior to launching the first Agile Release Train, significant time was spent on designing Portfolios, Programs and Teams. Standard Bank also initiated programs that focused on transforming management and leadership; developing a culture that fosters autonomy mastery and purpose; and re-skilling individuals to return to the heart of IT as software engineers, quality engineers, and user experience analysts.
With a large number of ARTs already in their third and fourth Program Increment, the value of the transformation is tangible with the motivated staff producing quality, more frequent, predictable delivery. Coupled with the successes, Standard Bank drives continuous improvement through role maturity, enhanced engineering capability and ART optimization.
“SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide. It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, roles, and jobs to achieve our goals for productivity, morale, and quality.”
—Alex Keyter, Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4), Standard Bank
The bank sought to improve service quality, efficiency, and employee morale, but previous efforts to scale Lean-Agile beyond a few teams had stalled.
Time-to-market reduced from 700 to 30 days
Deployments increased from once or twice a year to monthly
Productivity increased 50%
Cost decreased by 77%
Predictability is now at 68%
Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016, thanks in part to SAFe
Focus on culture change – Standard Bank moved from individual recognition to team awards and KPIs. The bank increased excitement and engagement through gamification, skills building, and automation.
Get the business involved early – The bank started the transition with IT. In hindsight, they would have engaged business owners sooner so they understood that the change was not just about IT. A handful of progressive thinkers helped influence the others.
Don’t forget to focus on engineering – “SAFe, coupled with a focus on engineering, takes it to the next level,” says Mike Murphy, Standard Bank CTO.
Based in South Africa, Standard Bank is the largest African banking group, with total assets of ZAR1.95 trillion (USD143 billion). For more than 152 years, the bank has served the continent and is now present in 20 sub-Saharan countries. Standard Bank operates seven different portfolio offerings across business and personal banking, corporate and investment, and wealth management.
At Standard Bank, the IT team embarks on approximately 600 projects every year to help keep the bank at the leading edge. Yet traditionally, teams have completed only a small percentage of projects within the defined timeframe, budget, and scope.
To improve follow-through, Standard Bank tried a few Lean-Agile pilots. However, their efforts stalled when they attempted to expand beyond a few teams working in isolation.
“We were very much a project-based environment,” explains Alex Keyter, Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4) at Standard Bank. “We tried waterfall, a combined team approach, and other frameworks, but nothing addressed the challenge of delivering value across organizational silos. Standard Bank has over 2,000 systems in IT, which required tremendous coordination to deliver an initiative successfully.”
Changing Culture and Launching POCs
On the back of a number of benchmarks that the bank set locally and internationally, the company initiated a four-pillar IT strategy:
Quality of service through brilliant basics, which are defined as IT housekeeping and maintenance; stability of service; and simplifying and reducing complexity
Responsiveness to market
Sustainability as the foundation of client excellence
Affordability through commercial pragmatism
To support its goals, the bank turned to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), and gained backing from executives to move ahead with deploying it. “SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide,” Keyter says. “It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, programs, and teams to achieve our strategic goals.”
But prior to rolling out SAFe, Standard Bank initiated various culture initiatives to start driving the change in behavior of leaders and teams, and launched proofs of concept.
“To affect culture change is like pulling out a rubber band,” explains Josef Langerman, Head of Engineering and IT Transformation at Standard Bank. “When the band is relaxed, it returns to its previous comfortable state. One has to exert energy again to pull it out. By doing this repeatedly and in different ways, the band gets softer and more stretched out. Similarly, culture needs continued effort and reliance on many techniques to move it to a new comfortable or desired state. There is no silver bullet.”
The bank took a number of steps to stretch out of its comfort zone:
They pulled cross-functional teams together and began delivering on a cadence
The Internet Banking and ATM teams modeled breaking work down into smaller, more manageable pieces and demonstrated to stakeholders the work completed during the sprint
Business and IT stakeholders joined in during these showcases to provide feedback to the teams
They switched their work attire from suits and ties to jeans
They began running off-site sessions with IT to define culture themes, change guilds, and more
They initiated DevOps initiatives prior to the SAFe implementation but were formalized during the roll-out
As part of the transition, Standard Bank set out to create a fully automated self-provisioning environment with scripting, and used an automation challenge to drive interest in skills. Automation pilots yielded significant tangible results:
20 minutes – Time to deploy application server stack end-to-end
30 seconds – Time to release new code to customers
0 percent – Deployment impact to customers
Additionally, the bank set a clear vision for the future of the organization. At the top, leaders aligned around a common understanding of goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) and emulated Silicon Valley tech leaders on the kind of change and coaching culture required.
At lower levels, the development community participated in defining the future state of the bank. Standard Bank also empowered employees to design their own culture as a group—to achieve true ownership.
Implementing SAFe and DevOps
Prior to launching the first Agile Release Train (ART), Standard Bank portfolios embarked on an outside-in model, moving away from the traditional project structures into a SAFe design construct forming cross-functional Teams, Programs, and Portfolios. The bank set a milestone for the first of July 2016 for teams to co-locate, work from a backlog, and establish visual management of work and self-regulated teams.
With the outside-in design taking shape, Human Capital with support from the Group CIO started a program that focused on re-skilling individuals to repurpose them as software engineers, quality engineers, or user experience analysts. Once they passed the aptitude test and went through the program, they were placed in a feature team. As a result, the organization now has more people getting the work done versus managing it.
“We really broke the old business operating model,” explains Adrian Vermooten, Head of Digital for the Africa Regions. “We said, ‘We’re changing our methodology. We’re moving out of this building and you’re giving up your old jobs.’”
In July 2016, two individuals attended SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) training and returned to begin rapidly training hundreds of team members. From July 2016 through February 2017, Standard Bank trained approximately 1,200 people on Leading SAFe in preparation for its first Program Increment (PI) planning meeting in January 2017.
A division CIO set the tone for executive sponsorship by earning certification as a SAFe Agilist prior to the first PI. Then he and other leaders planned heavily for the first event.
The First PI: A Mind-frame Shift
Leading up to the first Program Increment (PI), the bank evaluated the various internal and external teams impacting Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in the Portfolio and extended invitations accordingly. The first PI brought together 300 people from the Card & Emerging Payments group, which depends on more than 32 systems with numerous codependencies. While challenging, the event succeeded in kicking off a major mind-frame shift.
“The way we normally do things, we inherently start with, ‘Why? And we can’t do that,’ as opposed to this process which was, ‘We can do it, and how?’” stated one of the attendees.
Following a successful PI Planning session, the benchmark was set and other Portfolios soon followed with their first PI Planning sessions.
Productivity Up 50 Percent
These days, with more than 2,000 people trained on Leading SAFe, Lean-Agile practices and SAFe are key parts of Standard Bank’s strategic plan. The move to SAFe delivered a number of benefits, both qualitative and quantitative. Standard Bank succeeded in breaking down silos and improving dependency management. They removed complexity and reduced cost—while building more. Business people now prioritize work and budgets to account for IT change.
The bank notes significant gains within some of the more mature Teams or Portfolios:
Time-to-market reduced from 700 to 30 days
Deployments increased from once or twice a year to monthly
Productivity increased 50 percent
Cost decreased by 77 percent
Predictability is now at 68 percent
Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016
As hoped, the benefits have trickled down to the customer. “We put together some teams that much more closely represent the customer value chain,” Vermooten says.
Beyond the numbers, Vermooten sees the changes firsthand every day. Senior staff members get out from behind their desks and interact more with teams, while junior staff feel more free to share ideas.
“We flattened the organization,” he says. “Before, only senior people would speak up in meetings. Now, in every meeting, junior people are leading the conversation. There’s higher energy and intensity in people. It brings out the best in them.”